THE cost of an emergency clean-up operation at a former chemical plant could soar to £400,000, councillors have been warned.
If the Welsh Government does not step in to help, Flintshire Council’s budget could be thrown into disarray, one councillor says.
The authority has been involved in the clean-up at the former Euticals site in Sandycroft, which went into liquidation at the end of July.
At that point there were still about 4,000 cubic litres of effluent chemicals remaining untreated in bioreactors and tankers full of acid at the site.
Flintshire Council has been taking the lead in the operation to remove the chemicals in a joint effort with North Wales Police, Natural Resources Wales and the Environment Agency.
But now it has emerged that the cost of the operation is £60,000 each month.
The council has applied for financial help from Cardiff Bay to protect Flintshire’s council tax-payers from the full impact of the six-figure clean up bill, but so far no contribution has been “quantified or agreed”, according to a report to councillors from Kerry Feather, Flintshire Council’s head of finance.
The report calls the now unused Sandycroft site a “major public protection risk”, which will take six months to clean up. The total cost will be “in the region of £400,000”.
The figure amounts to about 11 per cent of the authority’s £3.4 million of non-earmarked cash reserves, according to the report. The council’s total budget for 2013-14 is £293m.
The authority could see costs spiral even higher if the current situation extends beyond six months, the report says.
Flintshire Council leader Aaron Shotton has said it is “unfair” for Flintshire ratepayers to pick up the hefty tab, arguing the Welsh Government should foot the bill.
And Flintshire councillor for Sandycroft David Wissinger said the council was on a tight budget which could be “thrown into disarray” unless the devolved Government stepped in.
“Whatever it costs, the county council have got to deal with the issue,” he said.
“We’ve got to make sure it’s safe.
“But it’s a private company and the Welsh Government should step in and pay the bill because it’s not of our doing.”
He said the Cardiff Bay administration should have acted “a lot more quickly”.
“The longer it goes on, the more it costs,” he said.
“Somewhere, we’ve got to draw a line.
“It’s a terrible situation and it’s costing more and more and more.”
Cllr Wissinger said the situation could lead to the council having to make “some very unpopular decisions”.
“I would like to see this resolved as soon as possible,” he said.
Previously the Welsh Government said it had advised the council on its emergency financial assistance scheme, which is available to local authorities wishing to seek reimbursement of costs incurred in responding to or recovering from large scale incidents.